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Our thanks to The Governor of the Tower of London, the LondonTransport Executive and Studio Film Laboratories Ltd. FOR TURNING THEMSELVES YELLOW
The Boy Who Turned Yellow boasts a script by Emeric Pressburger, and is Powell’s last dramatic film. While restrained by its budget and by its own ambitions, it does feature some impressive and surreal set pieces, such as the yellowing of an entire London Underground train and its passengers, and a journey into the magical world of television.
Pressburger’s story is quite free-form and rather lacking in logic, even for a fantasy, starting with a trip to the Tower of London and a lost mouse, before leaping this way and that through different fantastical ideas – like a whole television series spliced together by a hyperactive child. If you don’t ask for too much structure, the film has much to offer in the way of typically Pressburgian whimsy and unfettered imagination. Powell’s camera is more static than usual. This is more likely the result of time and money constraints than any lack of energy on his part, but he shepherds his resources and pulls off some charming special effects sequences, continuing an interest in representing the impossible which can be traced back to The Thief of Bagdad (1940) and A Matter of Life and Death.
It also features one member of the old stock company, returning for a final bow in a Powell film: Esmond Knight, who had appeared in numerous Powell and Pressburger films despite being blinded in World War II, appears as the family doctor. One face from the future is introduced as well: the hero’s American schoolmate is played by a juvenile Lem Dobbs, future screenwriter of Soderbergh’s Kafka, The Limey, Knockout and Dark City.
Whatever its weaknesses, the film far supersedes other Children’s Film Foundation Productions in scope and imagination. The film did extremely well with its audience and could have led to further work, but sadly Powell quarrelled with members the board of the Foundation, and no further children’s films followed from The Archers.
That further films were not made possible for this titan of British cinema, and that the British film industry forgot him so comprehensively through most of his later years, is a national disgrace. But Powell left behind an unrivalled body of marvellous work stretching from The Edge of the World (1937) to Return to The Edge of the World (1978), taking in half a dozen absolute masterpieces of cinema, and two fine volumes of autobiography which are witty, poetic, insightful, and sometimes even factual.
*Título retirado deste post nostálgico do Days are Numbers.